Growing in Wisdom and Strength – Why Are We Still So Obsessed with Youth?

TopPerfPicBlogWith all the focus lately on people living and working longer, why are we still focused only on unusually successful young performers? Isn’t it about time we feature and applaud those who are still innovating, creating and achieving at later ages?

There are amazing examples out there, in greater and greater numbers. It’s well known that the fastest growing age bracket is over 100. Examples include wonders like Neville Marriner, the 90 year-old, highly sought after conductor who leads multiple orchestras all over the world each month and is still producing new recordings. There is Warren Buffett, at 83, still successfully orchestrating and winning numerous huge deals each year. And Clint Eastwood, also 83, who regularly and frequently produces, directs, and acts in major award-winning films each year. There are many more examples in every field – sports, medicine, education, research, agriculture.

A recent National Geographic issue has a baby on the cover with the title, “This Baby Will Live to 120”. I heard that prediction over 15 years ago at a gerontology lecture. Researchers have known this statistic for a long time, predicting dire consequences for the health insurance industry and for the national economy. But not much has been done to change the minds of the public about preparing themselves to live and work longer. Recent studies have proven that, in a range of cognitive areas, the brain keeps growing well past 60. In fact, the brain in the age range 45-68, beats out all other age ranges, especially in the growth areas generally associated with Wisdom, including situation assessments, linking/comparing skills, and judgment. Surely those abilities are needed in the workplace more than ever.  The electronic and print media can do much to promote these capabilities and the millions of workers who can continue their productive work rather than living out decades at the public trough.  

Why don’t major magazines, like Forbes, Inc., Zagat, and the Guardian feature more seniors more prominently, as achievers in new or old careers, rather than just the occasional feature story? In addition to annually selecting top performers in groups of 30- or 40-year-olds, why not 80- or 90-year-olds? In the workplace and the marketplace, I think it will sell. And promote stronger, healthier, happier seniors at the same time.

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4 thoughts on “Growing in Wisdom and Strength – Why Are We Still So Obsessed with Youth?

  1. Cathy Schwab says:

    So many “boomers” have re-invented themselves, starting new businesses, working for non-profits, following their passion as they move into that chapter of life where contribution becomes a key motivation. It would be wonderful to hear of stories about those who are using their lifetime of skills and knowledge.

  2. Yes, occasional stories are great. A major feature, in numerous high profile magazines, spotlighting scores of superstar seniors would make an even greater impact and achieve much greater publicity for the concept!

  3. Debra Mervyn says:

    Sandra
    Excellent post. Especially in today’s age of the “Millennial” or Y generation http://www.livescience.com/38061-millennials-generation-y.html
    described as “lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job. Rewarded for minimal accomplishments in competitive sports, and have unrealistic expectations of working life. Millennials “want flexible work schedules, more ‘me time’ on the job, and nearly nonstop feedback and career advice from managers.”
    Some lazy seniors fall into the same archetype and or are the root of the Millenial problem. However our survival as a nation and as an economy depends on hard work, accountability and creativity. These are the characteristics and people that Sandra describes. These contributing members of our society no matter and despite age get this vision and need and lead us back to our roots and a bright future. The side benefit for them? Their brain grows, scientific fact, no matter their age.

    • I love the Millenials and many of their values. They give me hope for the future and for a better, more compassionate, more collaborative world. I also see their respect for Wisdom and their “elders” in the Boomer generation. Working together, using the tools described in my book, The DNA of the Resilient Organization, great progress can be made and sustained in all types of initiatives and organizations.

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